Russia is playing a bigger part in Mideast peace than the U.S. is

Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital left the U.S. in a terrible position for peace talks

By Charlie May

Published February 13, 2018 1:56PM (EST)

 (Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
(Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Monday and told him he would not "cooperate in any form with the U.S. in its status of a mediator" regarding peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine.

In other words, America's role as negotiator of a peace between Israel and the Palestinian people is history.

"We state that from now on we refuse to cooperate in any form with the U.S. in its status of a mediator, as we stand against its actions," Abbas told Putin, according to Haaretz. Last week Abbas suggested he hoped Russia could play a greater role in the peace process and said the United States could "no longer play a leading role."

In the months since Trump declared Jerusalem to be the rightful capital of Israel, Abbas has said that he would no longer accept any U.S. role in the peace process "from now on." The highly controversial decision angered Palestinians and was widely condemned by the international community.

In their conversations, Putin reportedly told Abbas that Trump sends "his best wishes." It's not entirely clear if Trump told Putin to speak on his behalf, but prior to their meeting, Trump and Putin spoke on the phone. A statement from the White House regarding the call read that the president told Putin, "now is the time to work toward an enduring peace agreement." Other topics, such as the recent airline crash and negotiations regarding North Korea, were also covered in the conversation, the White House said.

"Naturally we spoke about the Palestinian-Israeli settlement," Putin said of his and Trump's conversation, Haaretz reported. He told Abbas, "I would like to convey to you his [Trump's] best wishes."

Axios reported that Putin also said, "I know that now the situation is far from what we would like to see. You know that we have always supported the Palestinian people . . . your personal view of what is going on is very important to us."

Abbas told Putin that the U.S. "created" the current atmosphere with its actions, presumably in reference to Trump's Jerusalem decision. He also noted that he would be willing to accept "an international peace conference in which the U.S. will not be the only mediator but part of a group together with Russia, the E.U., China, U.K., France, Germany and some Arab states," according to Axios.

What the Trump administration has still failed to understand is that the president's decision to name Jerusalem as Israel's capital was not only dangerous, but it threatened any potential efforts for peaceful negotiations. The U.S. has staunchly supported Israel long before Trump, but the move also put the country at odds with the international community and dealt a further blow to anything left of U.S. credibility in regards to peace talks.

Charlie May

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